A year ago, I voted for a party other than Likud for only the second time since I moved to Israel.
Ideologically, for many reasons, Likud makes sense and is a comfortable political home. In addition, I believed in all the preceding elections that for many reasons, Benjamin Netanyahu – "Bibi" – was the best choice to lead the country.
A year ago, when the fourth successive election took place in about two years’ time, it became clear to me that despite all his strengths and accomplishments which I do not diminish, Bibi was playing us. Whether just to hang on to his political career, to avoid prosecution on some serious charges that have been brought against him, to undermine others, or any combination of these and other reasons, Bibi refused to bring a budget to a vote, unimaginably dragging Israel into two years without a state budget.
In doing so, he broke not just his coalition agreement, but automatically triggered new elections. I still admire and respect Bibi for all he’s accomplished, but I was no longer prepared to vote for Likud under his leadership.
If there was an expiration date on him like a container of milk, he went sour long ago.
While the current government is not one I would have chosen to put together, I’m glad Bibi is no longer prime minister. I wish Likud would replace Bibi and let others come into leadership, particularly those that he’s stifled and pushed aside for years, not coincidentally some of the best and brightest who he probably looks at as competition rather than those offering blind support.
Despite not loving the current government for many reasons, Bibi and Likud (along with much of the opposition which sadly and reflexively line up with Bibi) have not given me any reason to regret my vote a year ago. The opposition should be about competing ideas and, yes, trying to win back support of the public to govern again. This opposition under Bibi’s leadership has proven itself to be void of ideas and seems only to seek to undermine the sitting government, despite what may be good for Israel.
Yesterday, a law to provide scholarships to soldiers was passed, but not without gross political antics from Likud. The shameful thing is that this is a law that could (and maybe should) very well have been enacted in the 12 years that Bibi was prime minister. Every Likud member should have reflexively supported it. It never should have been a political vote, and for sure never should have been a vote about embarrassing or bringing down the government.
This morning, recordings aired of Likud members plotting to undermine the government through this vote. That’s simply shameful. They actually articulated that they would rather use the soldiers as a pawn to bring down the government than to vote for a law that is and ought to be a national priority. Did I mention that this was shameful?
Miri Regev, one of Bibi’s Likud Knesset member loyalists, is quoted as follows: “We decided as a party that we’re going to be a fighting opposition and that we want to bring down this government. So there are no stomach aches [when voting against] soldiers or battered women or cases of rape because we all understand that this is the rationale.”
I have always found Regev to be spiteful and vapid. The fact that in the previous government she was set to become our foreign minister, made a mockery of Likud’s internal selection process. Regev is one of the most undiplomatic members of Knesset.
The revelations this week have just confirmed my decision a year ago to bolt the Likud. I’m not saying I am gone for good, and in a democratic party (one of the few that actually has internal primaries sometimes), there will be people elected who I like and respect more than others. I can live with that.
But I no longer want to support a party with a man at its head who plays politics so much internally that it’s transparent that he has his own interests at heart rather than the wellbeing of the state.
Maybe I’m naïve. That won’t be the worst thing I have ever been called. I can live with that, too. But the party of Bibi and Miri is not one I can support. I pray that sound heads in Likud will make a change and give me reason to have confidence in my voting Likud again, someday.
Until then, I’ll pray that the sitting government succeeds to the best of its ability and doesn’t mess up, and that we’ll be on a path of competing ideas, not using our soldiers as pawns or blaming the sitting government for deals and alliances that the Likud would have made just as easily.
When voting in Israel, we take a slip of paper with letters representing the party we want to elect and put it in an envelope to be tallied. The letters representing Likud are מחל. Coincidentally, these letters are the root of the Hebrew word מחילה which means “forgiveness.” Rather than asking us to vote for them, the Likud should be asking for our forgiveness.
I’m ashamed for the Likud. I hope there’s some level of shame left among the adults still in the room.
Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians and serves as president of the Genesis 123 Foundation. He writes regularly on major Christian websites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He is host of the popular Inspiration from Zion podcast. He can be reached at [email protected].